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Indo-Pak talks begin
Kashmir remains part of dialogue

Islamabad, February 16
India and Pakistan exchanged “some proposals” on the first day of their official-level talks here today to discuss modalities and time frame for the resumption of a bilateral composite dialogue to settle outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

“Some proposals were exchanged. The talks will continue tomorrow,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told reporters, adding that the parleys were held in a “cordial atmosphere and constructive manner.”

“Both sides expressed satisfaction after the first day’s talks,” he said.

The Indian delegation at the talks is being led by Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, Mr Arun Kumar Singh, while Mr Jalil Abbas Jilani, Director in the Foreign Office, is heading his delegation. Foreign Secretary Shashank will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar on February 18.

Refusing to give details of the discussions, Mr Khan said the talks included the agenda, structure, ambit and time frame for the composite dialogue process that began today.

He said the talks were continuing and all aspects would be clear when the two Foreign Secretaries, who were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, would reach some conclusion.

Asked whether Kashmir was a part of the discussion, he said: “Kashmir, of course, remains part of the dialogue.”

Asked whether the discussion would also include fencing at the Line of Control by India, he said: “Well, I will not again go into details but all concerns of the two countries will be exchanged and addressed.”

The spokesman said all issues would be discussed at the composite dialogue and both sides would try to implement the decisions simultaneously.

He said Pakistan wanted to find a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue.

Alleging repression and human rights violations” in Jammu and Kashmir, he said Pakistan wanted to see an end to this.

He said the international community was supportive of the peace moves between India and Pakistan which had been made possible because of the statemanship of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Admitting that India and Pakistan and unsuccessful discussions in the past, he said the present round had been facilitated by the decision taken by the two leaders at their dialogue.

About a possible “better nuclear environment” between the two countries, he said: “As the talks progressed, a restraint regime between the two sides can also be discussed.” — PTI


Sinha optimistic but rules out mediation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha expressed optimism about the joint secretary-level talks that began in Islamabad today, though he ruled out any third party intervention in Indo-Pak affairs.

In the same breath, Mr Sinha said New Delhi was “grateful” to the EU for the offer to play a role in resolving Indo-Pak issues.

“As far as the role of EU or any third party is concerned, these are best resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan,” Mr Sinha told reporters at Hyderabad House after his 90-minute talks with the European Union Troika, including EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, Irish Foreign Minister Brain Cowen and Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard R Bot.

Mr Sinha said it would be difficult to arrive at a conclusion at the Islamabad talks and said the talks would decide time and issues for the composite dialogue. “I hope it won’t be difficult to reach a consensus,” he said.

“I am quite optimistic about the (Islamabad) round of talks. Today’s talks will decide time and issues for the composite dialogue. I hope it won’t be difficult to reach a consensus,” Mr Sinha said.

He briefed the EU leaders on the recent developments in Indo-Pak relations. Issues related to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction also came up for discussion.

The Irish Foreign Minister said the EU welcomed the commencement of the process of a composite dialogue between India and Pakistan and remarked: “We wish them well in these negotiations and remain willing to assist in any way required”.

The Indo-Pak talks are being held after a gap of more than five years. The two sides are likely to retain the “two plus six” formula worked out by them in June 1997 for resolving eight outstanding issues and may add some more subjects to the agenda.

Under the 1997 agreement, peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir were to be discussed by the two Foreign Secretaries while Siachen, terrorism, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges were to be taken up by officials concerned with these subjects.

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